Hoofing it to a Better Romantic Comedy


Finding Your Feet might be a small film, flying under the radar, but it is a film that your feet should seek out to see at the local theater.  Directed by Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon, Richard III, Firewall), and featuring a strong ensemble cast, Finding Your Feet subverts the comedy-drama-romance label it is wearing in its advertising and simply presents itself as it is, a film about life.

Sandra (Imelda Stauton-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Pride) is a woman looking forward to spending her golden years with her husband Mike (John Sessions-The Good Shepherd, The Bounty) after 35 years of marriage.  It is at this anniversary celebration that she discovers he has had a five year relationship with Janet (Phoebe Nicholls-Transformers: The Last Knight, The Elephant Man).  Humiliated and lost, she finds her way to where her estranged sister Bif (Celia Imrie-The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, A Cure for Wellness) lives.

Bif is more of a free-spirit compared to the uptight, upper-class Sandra.  Bif, whose real name is Elizabeth, likes to soak up life.  She is known to protest for causes she believes in, swim in the river, ride her bicycle, and is still sexually active in her 60’s.  She also is known to smoke a joint with her friend Charlie (Timothy Spall-Mr. Turner, Denial, Vanilla Sky), or attend a Thursday dance class with Charlie, Ted (David Hayman-The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Jackal), and Jackie (Joanna Lumley-Absolutely Fabulous, The Wolf of Wall Street).

As Sandra reconnects with Bif, a very tender story unfolds that captures people right where they are in their life.  These are people that love life, and largely seek to live it fully.  They are also people that are still carrying great baggage with them from death of loved ones, financial burdens, and more.  Sandra, though reeling, finds herself clashing with all of Bif’s friends as she continues to hold them in contempt of her former station in life.

Celia Imrie and Imelda Staunton have a natural chemistry together that makes it easier to believe that they were truly sisters.  While apparently cut from different cloths, we learn that the more that they hang out together, that there is much lying dormant under the surface that binds them together, revealing that they are much more alike than we think.  Their relationship grounds the entire film, and provides the best emotional moments, as well.

If the sister’s relationship is the foundation of the story, then Sandra’s relationship with Charlie is the catalyst to her future growth.  Timothy Spall continues to hone his craft and is seems to be better every year.  Taken to more characters who mumble, he uses this to great comedic effect as his take on Charlie perfectly rubs Sandra the wrong way.  From what Sandra sees on the outside, such as his meager house boat, to an old broken down van that he drives around, to the occasional joint he is known to smoke, there is no way that Charlie would have anything to offer Sandra.  Likewise, he doesn’t seem to see much in her as she is always crabby, issuing judgmental statements, and as her sister Bif notices, she doesn’t even have the decency to use basic manners, like thanking Charlie for picking her up when she needed a ride.

Finding Your Feet may follow some of the paths of the traditional romantic comedy-drama films of the past, but it embodies them in a completely different space as none of the character’s narratives feel forced or coerced by the script to end up somewhere specific.  Like life, often things in the story don’t go the way one would plan….or even want.  It is this idea that rings the truest about these characters, and the cast does the heavy lifting to deliver each character with empathy and understanding.

The only true two-dimensional characters are those of Sandra’s husband Mike, and his girlfriend (and Sandra’s ex-friend) Janet.  This is in no way due to the performance of either John Sessions or Phoebe Nicholls, but rather the way they are written in the script.  I believe this is truly because their characters exist to simply be a means to an end, not the focus of Sandra’s growth, but the cause that put her back on the path to discovering who she started out to be some 35 years before, prior to marrying Mike in the first place.

Finding Your Feet works well as a metaphor to how we deal with life when it hits us hard and we get knocked down.  It also works to serve the movie’s focus on the dance class they attend as a means of helping one rediscover the basic joys of life, so that we can open ourselves back up to the possibilities life offered us when we were young.  This is a film that will connect with any audience, and should be found and enjoyed.  Finding Your Feet opens this Friday.